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THE 1950S

The 1950s

 It was a significant occasion for motorsport and the event was awarded the title of the European Grand Prix. It was attended by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth – the first and only time a Monarch has attended a British motor race.

The first ever World Championship Grand Prix was won by Guiseppe Farina in an Alfa Romeo-dominated event in which the Italian manufacturer cruised to a 1-2-3 finish. Luigi Fagioli and British driver Reg Parnell filled the remaining podium positions. The Following year the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was won by the popular Argentinian driver, Froilan Gonzalez. Nicknamed the 'Pampas Bull', Gonzalez beat off the challenge of his fellow countryman Juan Manuel Fangio to win what was to become another significant moment in the history of Grand Prix racing. Alfa Romeo had dominated the sport until Gonzalez scored Ferrari's first victory in the World Championship in a 4.5-litre un-supercharged Ferrari which defeated the previously invincible 1.5-litre supercharged Alfa Romeos.

In 1951, the British Racing Drivers' Club took over the lease from the RAC and set about turning the temporary airfield track into something more permanent. The BRDC also established the British Grand Prix date for July, swapping places with the Daily Express International Trophy. During the winter, raised earth banks were built up to give spectators a better, safer view as the straw bales and oil drums were packed away. The pits and start-finish line were moved from the Farm to their present position on the exit of Woodcote Corner and other corners were slightly modified to create a 2.927mile circuit ready in time for the 1952 season.

There were no major circuit changes in 1953 but the Grand Prix meeting saw Farina set the first 100mph lap during the Fomule Libre support race in the Thinwall Special Ferrari. Fangio, in the 1954 Grand Prix, spent much of his time connecting with the weighted oil drums used to mark the corners. He couldn't see the edge of the circuit or the drums due to the all-enveloping streamlined bodywork of his W196 Mercedes. The tin cans, in all their glory, were somewhat different to the current run-off areas and gravel traps. Timekeeping was a trifle speculative in those days and the first five drivers were given the fastest laps as nobody was quite sure of their exact times but it seemed that they were all quite quick! Since there was an extra World Championship point for fastest lap, they all had one-fifth of a point each!

From 1955, the Grand Prix alternated between Silverstone and Aintree until 1964 when Brands Hatch took over as the alternative venue. The British Grand Prix had now become a major part of the British sporting calendar - one of those "must see" events alongside the FA Cup Final, The Grand National and Wimbledon.

Silverstone boasts an extensive range of merchandise from pocket money items to fabulous gifts. The perfect memento!

tour of the circuit

Soak up the history and explore the inner workings of Silverstone. For most it'll be your one and only chance to stand on the podium!